Who Is At Risk For Shingles
About 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Cases are more common in older adults, but doctors say even children get shingles.
Shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus , the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in their body. The virus can reactivate later, causing shingles.
“Not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles,” Wigand-Bolling noted.
Two other things to keep in mind: You cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles, the CDC says. However, you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine.
Complications Of Shingles: Eye Problems Encephalitis And Disseminated Herpes Zoster
- Eye involvement: Shingles can sometimes affect the eye, a condition termed herpes zoster ophthalmicus. In certain cases, it can lead to blindness. Individuals with a rash involving the eye, forehead, or nose should have a careful eye evaluation performed by a doctor, as prompt medical treatment may be necessary.
- Encephalitis: Rarely, individuals with shingles may develop inflammation of the brain . This condition can be life-threatening if severe, especially in people with an impaired immune system.
- Disseminated herpes zoster: This serious and potentially life-threatening condition occurs most commonly in people with an impaired immune system. It is rare in otherwise healthy individuals. With disseminated herpes zoster, the varicella-zoster virus becomes more widespread. In addition to causing a more widespread rash, the virus can also spread to other organs of the body, including the brain, lungs, and liver.
What Are The Benefits Of The Shingles Vaccine
The shingles vaccines are the best way to protect you from getting shingles. The vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by 50% for Zostavax® II, and to more than 90% for Shingrix®.
For those who still get shingles after being immunized, the vaccines can reduce pain, including the type of pain that lasts after shingles.
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Who Should Get Shingrix
Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix. If needed, people with weakened immune systems can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first.
You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Received varicella vaccine
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called zoster vaccine live is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
How Long Will The Effects Last
The rash from shingles will heal in 1 to 3 weeks and the pain or irritation will usually go away in 3 to 5 weeks. When shingles occurs on the head or scalp, the symptoms usually go away eventually, but it may take many months.
If the virus damages a nerve, you may have pain, numbness, or tingling for months or even years after the rash is healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. This chronic condition is most likely to occur after a shingles outbreak in people over 50 years old. Taking antiviral medicine as soon as the shingles is diagnosed may help prevent this problem.
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Can Shingles Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccination. Vaccinate your children for chickenpox. This vaccine reduces their risk for getting chickenpox. You cant get shingles unless youve had chickenpox first.
When you are older, get the shingles vaccine. It is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. It can prevent shingles. People who have had shingles should get the vaccine to help stop the disease from reoccurring. Common side effects of the vaccine are headache, plus redness, swelling, itching, and soreness at the injection site.
The shingles vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:
- Has had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- Has an allergy to any component of the shingles vaccine
- Has a weakened immune system due to conditions such as leukemia, HIV, or AIDS
- Is receiving treatment for cancer
- Is being treated with drugs that suppress their immune system, including high-dose steroids
- Is pregnant or might become pregnant within 4 weeks of getting the vaccine
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Ive had chickenpox. Am I at risk of developing shingles?
- What is the best treatment for my shingles?
- The pain from shingles isnt going away. What can I do to make myself more comfortable?
- Im on treatment for shingles. When should I call my doctor if things dont get better?
- I have shingles and my children havent had the chickenpox vaccine. Should I get them vaccinated?
- Is the shingles vaccine right for me?
- Are there any risks associated with the shingles vaccine?
- Will my post-herpetic neuralgia ever go away?
- If Ive never had the chickenpox, should I still get the shingles vaccination?
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Doctor’s Notes On Shingles
Shingles is a skin disease caused by a reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus , the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is also referred to as herpes zoster and occurs many years after the original chickenpox infection, most often in older adults. Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems.
Shingles produces characteristic signs and symptoms on one side of the body. A painful skin rash is common and may be preceded by a few days of tingling, stinging, itching, or burning of the affected area of skin. The rash is red, raised, and contains fluid-filled blisters. The rash appears in a stripe pattern along the path of a nerve, known as a dermatome. Associated symptoms can include headache, body aches, fever, chills, and nausea.
What Is the Treatment for Shingles?
The treatment for shingles may involve antiviral drugs if these can be administered promptly. These can reduce the duration of outbreaks and reduce complications. Pain control is also an important part of shingles treatment. Pain control options for shingles can include topical capsaicin patches, anticonvulsants, or tricyclic antidepressant drugs, which have been shown to help control nerve pain, numbing medications such as lidocaine, or local anesthetics.
The Stages Before And After Rash Development
The most well-known symptom of shingles is a severe skin rash. However, before any signs of blisters, you may feel as if you’re only coming down with the flu.
You may experience chills and fever, as well as intense pain. It’s not until a few days later that a rash finally joins these shingles symptoms, with clusters of tiny, pimple-like blisters progressing quickly once they appear.
If you’re familiar with the signs and symptoms of shingles, you’ll be able to recognize what’s going on, get a diagnosis quickly, and deal with it without delay. Doing so makes you less likely to develop complications, such as nerve issues or bacterial skin infections.
This article reviews the symptoms of shingles and what you need to know about potential complications.
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When To Seek Care
Early shingles symptoms, such as pain or flu-like feelings, are not obvious signs of a shingles outbreak.
Once a rash appears, you should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist. A trained eye can often diagnose shingles by visually inspecting the rash.
If you have shingles, you may never experience the extreme pain that can often come with it. You may only feel itching and some minor discomfort.
Even without the painful symptoms of shingles, its recommended that you see a healthcare professional and start antiviral treatment within 72 hours of a rashs appearance.
Its especially important to seek prompt medical care if a rash forms near one or both eyes. Shingles in the eye may cause permanent vision loss.
Seek Treatment Right Away
Many people have the mistaken impression that, like poison ivy, shingles is a nuisance rash that fades on its own. But in fact a shingles rash should alert people, especially in middle or old age, to seek immediate medical help, says Dr. Oaklander.
Rapid treatment with one of three antiviral drugs, acyclovir , valacyclovir , or famciclovir , can shorten a shingles attack and reduce the risk of serious damage, such as:
- Long-term pain. Pain that lingers in the area of a healed shingles rash is called postherpetic neuralgia. This often-disabling pain can last several months to a year.
- Prolonged itching. Many people are left with an itchy area from their shingles, which can be as disabling as chronic pain. It is most common on the head or neck.
- Damage to vision and hearing. Pain and rash near an eye can cause permanent eye damage and requires an urgent ophthalmological exam. When the nerve to the ear is affected, it can permanently damage hearing or balance.
- Strokes and heart attacks. A PLOS Medicinestudy that tracked about 67,000 people ages 65 and older who were newly diagnosed with shingles found that stroke risk more than doubled in the first week after the shingles diagnosis. The same study reported an increased risk for heart attacks in the three months after shingles, but the additional risk dissipated after six months.
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How Does It Occur
If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for later developing shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays in your body. It moves to the roots of your nerve cells and becomes inactive . Later, if the virus becomes active again, shingles is the name given to the symptoms it causes.
What exactly causes the virus to become active is not known. A weakened immune system seems to allow reactivation of the virus. This may occur with normal aging, immune-suppressing medicines, or another illness, or after major surgery. It can also happen as a complication of cancer or AIDS or treatment of these illnesses. Chronic use of steroid drugs may trigger shingles. The virus may also become active again after the skin is injured or sunburned. Emotional stress seems to be a common trigger as well.
Prevent Shingles With Vaccination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that almost all people ages 60 and older be vaccinated against shingles, whether or not they had chicken pox in their youth or have had shingles before, says Dr. Oaklander.
The vaccination that prevents chickenpox in children was used to develop a similar vaccine that protects against shingles. It reduces the risk of getting shingles by about half, and shingles rashes that still develop are slightly less likely to cause postherpetic pain, or other serious complications, says Dr. Oaklander.
People with especially weak immune systems, such as those with cancer or anyone undergoing immunosuppressive treatments, should avoid Zostavax since the vaccine contains a weakened form of the live virus. Because Zostavax has only been available since 2006, it is still not yet clear if a single vaccination offers lifelong protection, but at this time, no booster is recommended.
A new shingles vaccine called HZ/su also may be helpful for older adults. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the vaccine was 97.2% effective among those ages 50 and older, and 97.9% effective for those ages 70 and older. And since HZ/su is not made from a live, weakened virus, it is safe to give to people with weak immune systems. This vaccine still needs to undergo further testing before it can be submitted for FDA approval, which may happen as early as this year.
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Shingles: Symptoms And Effects Of Virus
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Shingles describes a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox, shingles can occur later in life. According to research, one in three adults will go on to develop this painful condition. As medicine works best when taken within the first three days of the infection, being able to identify the symptoms could help.
When Should I See A Doctor Because Of The Side Effects I Experience From Shingrix
Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system, so it may produce short-term side effects. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are expected and usually go away on their own in 2 or 3 days. You may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Contact your healthcare provider if the symptoms are not improving or if they are getting worse.
In clinical trials, Shingrix was not associated with serious adverse events. In fact, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, for every 1 million doses of a vaccine given, only one or two people might have a severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction happen within minutes or hours after vaccination and include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness. If you experience these or any other life-threatening symptoms, see a doctor right away.
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Who Should Not Get Shingrix
You should not get Shingrix if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix.
- Currently have shingles.
- Currently are pregnant. Women who are pregnant should wait to get Shingrix.
If you have a minor illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe illness, with or without fever, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine.
Appearance Of The Shingles Rash
The eruptive stage of shingles begins a few days later. This is when a rash appears.
The skin in the area of the prodromal pain caused by shingles will often be sensitive to the touch and reddish in appearance. As these symptoms get worse, it may begin to feel like a sunburn.
Within three to five days of the initial pain, a few tiny pimple-like spots appear and quickly multiply into clusters, forming a rash that feels prickly to the touch.
From there, sometimes within hours, the pimples develop into water-filled blisters, or vesicles, that then consolidate into larger blisters. Often, redness and swelling accompany the rash.
The shingles rash looks very much like the chickenpox rash, with a key difference: Chickenpox blisters are widely scattered over the entire body. With shingles, the rash almost always occupies a finite strip of skin.
Ultimately, the pain of shingles may get so excruciating that simply grazing the skin with clothing can set off what feels like an electric shock.
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What Types Of Health Care Professionals Treat Shingles
Shingles are most commonly diagnosed and treated by a primary care physician or an emergency medicine physician.
- For certain individuals who develop complications of shingles, a specialist in ophthalmology, neurology, or infectious disease may also be involved.
- Select patients with postherpetic neuralgia may require the care of a pain specialist.
Shingles And Loss Of Appetite
HI! I’m 43 years old and was diagnosed with shingles last week. The bumps are all on the side of my right breast and the itching is unbearable!! Only now, 7 days in, are the blisters starting to burn. I’ve noticed that i have total loss of appetite and nausea with this as well. Also extremely fatigued and i cant take any time off work as i’ve already exhausted my sick time last week. Am i alone?? Is this normal symptoms of the virus?
1 like, 9 replies
Posted 2 years ago
hi i have had it for awhile my doctor put me on Lyrica for burning and itching because it’s the nerve
Posted 2 years ago
I am over a year now with shingles, I accept now I have PHN as result of it. My doctor put me on Lyrica , but after a couple of months I just stopped using it as I always felt like I was drunk and and could not walk a straight line, I also stopped using the Versatis patch. I now use Valtrex tablets. I would recommend people to check their diet as I found certain foods like nuts and seeds then to make it more severe. I found this out with my food change on holidays as I did not use them. I find now avoiding certain foods help.
Posted 2 years ago
also stress i have had it for about five years i learn to excersise and de stress you are right i change the way i cook i haven’t had a attack in two years now even when i was sick with sepis and in a comma for four days it’s all about you the only time i use Lyrica is when i had a flare
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